(Editor's Note: This post is part 3 of a 3-part blog series on Planting a Multicultural Church)
At Trinity Park one of the things we say is: “Every Sunday we work hard to ensure that Jesus is exalted but we work equally hard to ensure our doors are kept wide open to the diverse community around us.”
That means the Goal of the worship service is not singular, but two-fold: 1) To Exalt Jesus Christ and 2) To encourage everyone to come in, see and worship Him.
From the beginning we used this question to help frame our thinking about crafting our worship service:
How can we lower or remove cultural barriers or anything else that is non-essential to the Gospel message?
The answer plays out in the various elements of the weekly service:
We sing many classic hymns of the faith—not because they are part of western church culture but because we believe the theology in those songs transcends culture. We also don’t sing overly wordy hymns and songs, even if those songs are crowd-favorites among our majority-culture congregants. The additional filter for song selection of “could I understand this in a second language” is helpful in creating a space that is welcoming to minority cultures among us.
We also sing some in multiple languages once or twice a month, acknowledging that though we are primarily an English speaking congregation we are not only an English speaking congregation-many of us speak other languages in our homes and in our communities.
You may be interested to know we follow a liturgical order of worship like you may find in many reformed, PCA churches. We frame worship this way not because we in the European-descended church traditions have done it this way for thousands of years, but because we believe it actually makes worship more faithfully Gospel-centered, transferrable and understandable, not less.
Within that liturgical context, though, we make sure the various elements of worship often contain themes like ‘the nations worshipping God’ or ‘learning to love people who are different than we are in the church and in the world’ or ‘God’s sovereignty over all things, including the neighbors he’s placed in your path.’
Learning from Randy Pope who has a ‘Pastoral Moment’ at Perimeter Church, we inserted what we call a ‘Vision Moment’ in almost every one of our services. It’s an opportunity to communicate the vision of the church every single week—to communicate other aspects of what it means to be the church the other 6 1/2 days of the week. In that slot, we talk about missions locally and globally, children’s ministry, hiring staff—anything that is a manifestation of the vision of our church.
I carefully think through my prayers. John Stott said “the Christian should live with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other” and I try to model that to our people as I pray. So I pray through the world news. Syria, Turkey, Philippines, Egypt, France, North Korea, Cuba, Iran are all nations I’ve prayed for by name in the past years. But of course I also pray for broken arms, for parents, for marriages—all the important things broken people struggle with in the church.
I intentionally don’t use big theological words unless I feel like I really need to teach people that word in English. If I do use a big theological word, I always define what that word means. Although, we do have about 25 PhDs in our small congregation (Our community is the most educated community by percentage of population in the world), I intentionally try to convey the Gospel message in simple terms. I don’t dumb the Gospel down or lower the intellectual bar, I just always assume some people are listening to me who are either using their second language or who are not believers.
The worship service is the only time when you have everyone (or almost everyone) present together. So, make sure the worship service perpetuates the vision of your church.